The Spectator: A World War II Bomber Pilot's Journal of the Artist as Warrior

Overview

From Greenwich Village to Guadalcanal in just over a year, David Zellmer would find piloting a B-24 bomber in the South Pacific a far cry from his life as a fledgling member of the Martha Graham Dance Company. He soon discovered the unimagined thrills of first flights and the astonishment of learning that an aerial spin was merely a vertical pirouette which one spotted on a barn thousands of feet below, instead of on a doorknob in Martha's studio. Reconstructed from letters home, this captivating account traces ...

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Overview

From Greenwich Village to Guadalcanal in just over a year, David Zellmer would find piloting a B-24 bomber in the South Pacific a far cry from his life as a fledgling member of the Martha Graham Dance Company. He soon discovered the unimagined thrills of first flights and the astonishment of learning that an aerial spin was merely a vertical pirouette which one spotted on a barn thousands of feet below, instead of on a doorknob in Martha's studio. Reconstructed from letters home, this captivating account traces Zellmer's journey from New York to the islands of the South Pacific as the 13th Air Force battled to push back the Japanese invaders in 1943 and 1944.

Spurred to action by encouraging letters from Martha Graham, who urges him to document his participation in the great tragic play of the Second World War, Zellmer struggles to come to terms with the fears and joys of flying, of killing and being killed. Each stage of the battle takes him farther and farther from those he loves, until the soft night breezes and moon-splashed surf no longer work their magic. From bombing runs against Truk, the infamous headquarters of the Japanese Fleet, to much savored slivers of civilization in Auckland and Sydney, the young pilot bemoans a gnawing concern at a loss of sensation, the prospect of life—not as a performer, but as a spectator. With distant memories of life on the stage, he finds that only the threat of death can bring the same intensity of feeling.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
It is fortunate for us that Zellmer, a broadcast writer and producer at CBS, saved his wartime letters to his former choreographer, Martha Graham. These letters of a Graham company dancer turned airman portray his life as a B-24 bomber pilot in the Pacific theater of World War II, where he flew 46 missions. It's all there--the endless boredom, brief moments of excitement, and unexpected death. The expressive style is poetic: "I breathe only when attached to the plane's oxygen system. My heart beats only if the propellers are turning. I hear only when the radio is turned on. The plane's wings are my arms; the automatic pilot is my brain." While probably not a required purchase for World War II collections, this vivid, poetic book is definitely worthwhile.--Richard S. Nowicki, Emerson Vocational H.S., Buffalo, NY
Booknews
Martha Graham encouraged this fledgling member of her dance company to document his role in the "great tragic play" of World War II. Zellmer recounts his B-24 missions in the South Pacific. Includes forewords by history professors at Yale and the US Army War College, a log of 48 combat missions, suggested readings, and a few photos. No index. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780275962869
  • Publisher: Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/28/1999
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.66 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

DAVID ZELLMER became an Air Cadet in October of 1942--within days of giving his final performance as a member of the Martha Graham Dance Company.

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Williamson Murray

Foreword by Sir Michael Howard

The Spectator

Flight Log

Selected Readings

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